Down with foofy food

As a food writer, the restaurants I hear about most are the ones with dedicated PR teams, high-resolution press photos and a constant barrage of events that make for quick and easy stories for our news site – the most expensive and upscale restaurants that the Garden State can offer.

To not much surprise, then, I’ve always been a little infatuated with these five-star eateries that, as a teen living with my single mom, I could only drive by. Hell, I didn’t even have something to wear to these types of places even if I could go.

Objects in photo may be smaller than they appear.

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Pub 199 of Mt. Arlington is a meat lover’s paradise

When I worked as an advertising account manager in 2013 and 2014 (thank god that’s over) my main job duty was to pretty much call every business in Morris County and solicit them for advertising. I always got interesting – sometimes rude and sometimes surprisingly receptive – answers from whoever had the misfortune of picking up my bored call. However, I still remember what the busy employee at Pub 199 said to me when I called them on one fateful day.

Continue reading “Pub 199 of Mt. Arlington is a meat lover’s paradise”

My 5 top international eateries in Central Jersey

When people ask me what I do for a living, I’m always pretty psyched to tell them that I write about local travel and food in my Tuesday column and our Wednesday Table section.

Immediately, they usually have quite a few questions.

“How do you find restaurants to review?”

“What if a restaurant turns out to be bad?”

Every time, I launch into my usual speech — I don’t review anything. I only write about restaurants that I like in the first place, but as a journalist, I was trained that no one cares about your opinion. So in my food/restaurant stories, which often sneak into my travel column as well as my Table stories, I never critique the restaurant.

Pork barbeque combo by chef Homer Reyes at La Parilla de Manila, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Colonia, NJ. (Photo: Jason Towlen/Staff Photographer)
Pork barbeque combo by chef Homer Reyes at La Parilla de Manila, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Colonia, NJ.
(Photo: Jason Towlen/Staff Photographer)

Continue reading “My 5 top international eateries in Central Jersey”

An Asian food fan finds underground paradise in Jersey City

Today, I’m an ever-hungry Jersey food writer for this blog as well as Gannett New Jersey’s MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com, which congregate from the Courier News, Home News Tribune and Daily Record. But as a kid, I was labeled as a picky eater.

Today, I also know better. I was never a picky eater – I was a selective eater.

I crinkled my nose at bologna sandwiches at lunchtime and my mother’s dinnertime microwave meals. I passed on frozen pizza and plastic-looking macaroni. I wasn’t interested in questionable buffet items or soggy french fries.

However, I was definitely down to try colorful sushi rolls, exotic meats and other eloquently prepared dishes that I had never seen in a school cafeteria or even in my own fridge. I’m still the same way today – I gravitate towards something a little stylish, a little fashionable or a little odd over a burger any day, most of which I’m totally incapable of cooking or creating myself.

Many of these dishes that I love the most tend to be of Asian influence – I could eat Thai, Filipino, Japanese and Chinese cuisine every day of the week. However, there are two outstanding issues with this – one, I frequently don’t really know what I’m ordering and two, I’m often dropping quite a chunk of change at fancy restaurants.

Cellar 335 is an Asian fusion restaurant. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)
Cellar 335 is an Asian fusion restaurant. (Photo by Jenna Intersimone)

Continue reading “An Asian food fan finds underground paradise in Jersey City”

How a Somerville restaurant totally screwed me

I really love sushi. But being that I’m also poor, the sushi joints I go to tend to be a little shady, all-you-can-eat, 50 percent off when you pay cash and housed in dingy corners of town.

On most nights when we are craving sushi, my boyfriend, Mike, and I tend to head to Kumo Asian Bistroa much-untapped sushi restaurant in downtown Somerville that offers all-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi for $23 per person on a weekday and $25 per person on a weekend. The huge restaurant, which has incredibly fresh fish for what you pay, tends to be mostly empty, quiet and relaxing.

However, last night, I really wanted to try Shumi, a high-end Somerville sushi eatery that has frequently been called New Jersey’s best sushi restaurant. Mike told me, “Just so you know, it’s a little expensive,” but we had no idea the hits our wallets would be taking until much later.

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This is not Shumi sushi. But it was also still great.

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Durham: Feeding its tourists with dignity

As a classic clutcher of a glass-half-empty, I’m always aware when visiting a new city that I’m probably not going to eat quite as well as I do at home in New Jersey, where I know my fair share of hidden gem restaurants as well as what spots are grossly overrated.

Unfortunately, when traveling, I don’t have this kind of advantage. Instead, I’m at the whim of what restaurants are within walking distance of my lodging, passing recommendations from Uber drivers and how many stars a particular eatery as garnered via a quick Google search.

However, during my recent stay in Durham, North Carolina, for a wedding, I have to say that for one of the only times in my life, every restaurant that we sampled was simply fantastic. Here’s my recap.

Carolina-style ribs.
Carolina-style ribs.

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Around the world with a silver spoon

Today, part of my job at MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com is to write for our weekly Table section, where we feature restaurants, food news and the like. So, basically, I live the dream – I visit new local restaurants, try out cool dishes and hang out with like-minded people who don’t eat to live, but live to eat.

Although I do get to meet lots of friendly restaurant owners and chefs whose mouths literally water as they describe their favorite meals, I also meet a lot of food snobs. These people generally believe that the best wines are those you can’t pronounce and the best restaurants can only be found in the hidden corners of the world.

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The Best Waterside Restaurants on the Jersey Shore

When you live on the Jersey Shore, summer doesn’t start on June 21, when the sand gets hot, or even when the local pools open up. Beachrats can barely wait for an 80-degree thermometer to tinker on over to the beach (which is why you can spot them surfing in the dead of winter), but instead, you’ll find these dirty combers scouring the sands as soon as the calendar swings over May.

Why? They don’t care if they have to wear jeans to do it – these people want to be on their boats, in the kayaks, hovered over the side with fishing poles, and trotting down the boardwalk with their sloppy puppies – and they don’t want to wait. However, even the dirtiest beachrat needs a nice meal once in a while that didn’t come from a truck, which is why you should check out the below Jersey Shore restaurants in between the spouts of living in your car this summer, especially before all those bennies get down there in mid June.

1. The Lobster House at Cape May Harbor

The Lobster House is a staple of a weekend well spent in the southern shores. With a modest price tag for outdoor seating, you can grab some menus, mark it up with your people, and head over to the respective bars to grab your crab cakes, clam chowder, and oysters on the half shell and enjoy them on the deck across the bay from million-dollar homes and yachts and plenty of gulls. The Lobster House is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. Learn more at thelobsterhouse.com

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Photo Courtesy of Ed Morlock

2. Boathouse Restaurant at Wildwood

At Boathouse, choose indoor or outdoor seating for stunning panoramic views of the harbor while enjoying top-of-the-line fresh clams casino, steamed mussels, stuffed flounder, or twin lobster tails. A classier establishment than other harborside seafood restaurants, Boathouse is a great end note when you’re feeling like you deserve to spend a few bucks. Learn more at boathouseonline.net.  

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

3. Rooney’s Ocean Crab House at Long Branch

Rooney’s is a top-of-the-line restaurant and raw bar that sits just far enough from the hub of Pier Village while facing the Atlantic in a completely glass-screened seating area. Offering a raw bar, conveniently placed circular bar, private parties, and a truly stellar $30 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch until Memorial Day that is never crowded, Rooney’s is a great spot for birthdays and anniversaries while also being a go-to for nursing your Sunday morning hangover with a Mimosa and some crab legs. Learn more at rooneysocean.com.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

4. Moonstruck at Asbury Park

With an ambiance that doesn’t mimic pinkies in the air or bored businessmen, Moonstruck is reminiscient of an old-school cocktail lounge and restaurant tucked away at the corner of town in a romantic old building. Travel up the hiking steps, grab a bottle of wine, and listen to the insanity of Asbury Park from nearby… in the quiet corner of Moonstruck, equipped with a variation of classic Italian dishes. Learn more at moonstrucknj.com.

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Photo Courtesy of oldbridgemusiccenter.wordpress.com

5. Stella Marina at Asbury Park

Stella Marina boasts an extensive Italian menu in a classy, white tablecloth environment overlooking one of the most notorious boardwalks in the United States. With outstanding views of the Asbury beaches below, visitors enjoy some classic Italian accompanied by plenty of wines fit for events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Learn more at stellamarinarestaurant.com

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Photo Courtesy of restaurantpassion.com

 

The Best Meal I Ever Had

Due to my journalism training, I tend to stay away from grandiose statements such as the best place I’ve ever beenbecause unlike blog posts, it is very difficult to numerically list such abstract things in life, especially when you’ve been around the block a few times and you’re getting up there in age. When people ask me where I would like to live or who my favorite writer is, I’m often left sitting there speechless like some sort of imbecile. However, when someone asks me what the best meal I ever had was, I already know my answer before the question is out of their mouth.

If there is a Heaven, the rest of us will spend eternity enjoying the cooking of those with dark hair, loud voices, and beautiful accents – the Italians. When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy last fall, I could easily declare the dinner I ate each and every night the best meal I ever had. Because hell, let’s be serious, when you’re a beautiful Italian man dishing out red wines, limoncello, tiramasu, fresh bread, and every kind of pasta I have ever seen, it’s hard to not be overcome with dinner emotion. However, I didn’t know what I was talking about until I visited Acqua al 2 located on a narrow side street, Via della Vigna Vecchia, in the heart of Florence near the Duomo.

Study abroad students and Italian visitors in general are known for saying “Oh, you just have to go to this restaurant, best food I ever had, except hold on, can’t quite remember what it’s called….” but the blueberry steak at this place makes it a difficult restaurant to forget.

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My roommate Andrea and I visited Acqua al 2 on several occasions, however now looking back, I wish we had gone a lot more often. We started out sharing a dry house red wine with our freshly baked unsalted bread before moving onto the pumpkin pasta, one of the chef’s daily new creations. This pasta was coated with what appeared to be a red-orange vodka sauce, but instead, had been enveloped in this fall flavored pumpkin topping. The pasta sampler is another great option, giving you the chance to try basically whatever the chef feels like making, which is good enough for me.

Then, we moved onto the main course – the blueberry steak, a small lump of steak about the size of one’s fist that in size, does not measure up to the typical Florentine t-bone steak, however this tender and girthy piece of meat is also soaked in a thick blueberry sauce who’s deep taste and texture are only emboldened by the steak’s flavor. A steak sampler is also offered, which contains the blueberry steak, the balsamic steak, and a classic steak, however blueberry is really the way to go due to its oddness.

And then, finally, we would always cap the whole thing off with the dessert sampler, which contained a cookies and marshmallow cake, homemade tiramasu,  a vanilla and raspberry cheesecake, and, of course, cannolis.

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Great. Now I’m hungry and all I have to eat is damn Elio’s pizza.

Acqua al 2 also has another location located at 212 7th St SE, Washington, DC. You can call at (202) 525-4375 for more information.